Ice Fishing Whitefish Whitefish are one of many greatest, hardest-fighting, most plentiful, nutritious, scrumptious, and ubiquitous species that ice anglers need to chase. And but, in apart from just a few locales the place they’re pursued with ardour, like lakes Simcoe, Nipissing, Temagami, Lake of the Woods in Ontario, and Inexperienced Bay in Wisconsin, they’re phantom fish for many anglers.

Bonus fish caught by “accident” by a fortunate few, however by no means pursued with fervor due to their seemingly distinctive means to flee detection and keep away from being patterned. Even in lakes that when hosted a thriving ice fishery, like Shoal Lake on the western finish of Lake of the Woods, as quickly because the smelt inhabitants collapsed, the whitefish instantly modified their behavioral patterns and appeared to vanish.

Fixing the whitefish puzzle would open up a great deal of unbelievable new ice fishing alternatives. Think about being one of many first to get in on the motion and catch and launch 100 or extra fish a day.

The Inexperienced Bays and Lake Simcoes of the world are few and much between, contemplating the 1000’s of different lakes throughout the Ice Belt that host populations of whitefish. And make no mistake, whitefish are a worthy winter competitor.

A Worthy Competitor

“Every little thing about whitefish makes them troublesome for many anglers to focus on,” says Saskatchewan fishery scientist Rebecca Eberts, who makes a speciality of whitefish biology, together with their feeding preferences, the lake environments that help them, and their actions inside these techniques.

Ice Fishing WhitefishJohn Whyte, certainly one of Ontario’s savviest whitefish anglers, agrees. Whereas most bass, walleye, pike, and trout anglers can take what they’ve realized, fish new waters, and achieve success, Whyte says that it is harder to do with whitefish as a result of they behave in so many various methods — even in water our bodies that lie adjoining to at least one one other, like his dwelling waters of Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay.

Discover the Meals, Discover the Whitefish

Eberts and Whyte agree that figuring out what the fish are consuming helps resolve the winter whitefish conundrum. “Whitefish are dynamic feeders,” Eberts says. She analyzes eating regimen tracers within the tissue of the fish in Lake Huron to find out if the spawning aggregations signify one giant panmictic summer season feeding group or a number of distinct teams. “We regularly describe whitefish as opportunistic generalists — they feed on what is out there. However they’re additionally fast to change their feeding decisions when new alternatives come up.

“So, as an angler, do you employ a delicate lure that blends in with the out there decisions? Or do you attempt to entice whitefish to grab a chance to feed on one thing presumably extra enticing, however much less frequent or extra ‘dangerous’? No matter you select, the lure or bait needs to be convincing,” she says. Whitefish are used to scouring the underside for nutritious benthic invertebrates and you will not idiot them simply.”

Whitefish appear to be intelligent fish, routinely out-smarting us. Even inside a bunch of whitefish, Eberts notes, there’s usually a mixture of specialists and generalists. In different phrases, not all fish in a college essentially reply to your bait or lure in the identical means.

“I believe one of the crucial troublesome issues for whitefish anglers is presenting a bait or lure to the fish in a means that mimics their prey,” she says. “Take into account that whitefish feed on insect nymphs, tiny nematode worms, chironomids, amphipods, beetles, mussels, and infrequently small fish.

“Presenting them with one thing that resembles a fish is simple however the possibilities of coming throughout whitefish which are closely feeding on fish could also be slim. If it had been me, I might be jigging a horizontal nymph, worm, insect sample fly, or small reside crawler. I say this from taking a look at tons of of whitefish abdomen contents via my analysis. When you’re retaining fish to eat, take a look of their abdomen and see what they’re consuming. It might prevent a variety of time making an attempt various things.”

As a result of their vary of meals is so huge and numerous, Whyte says that in some lakes you discover most whitefish referring to the underside in shallow water, usually lower than 7 ft deep, whereas in lakes dominated by open-water baitfish like smelt, you discover them out over a lot deeper water, usually suspended in the course of the water column.

“On Lake Simcoe nowadays, the best supply of meals is gobies, particularly 3-inch translucent inexperienced gobies,” he says. “Discover the gobies and you discover the whitefish. That wasn’t the case when there have been smelt within the lake, but it surely’s the case at this time.”

Tender Tops

Having a good suggestion of what whitefish are consuming, Whyte turns his consideration to pinpointing remoted constructions that serve up the meals, particularly these in 20 to 40 ft of water with comfortable substrates.

“I sometimes discover whitefish feeding on prime of constructions early within the morning,” he says, noting that they slide down the perimeters within the afternoon on vivid sunny days. “However the construction has to have a comfortable prime, ideally with moss rising on it. The clear, blue aquarium-type tops look good however they do not have whitefish on them. The highest of the construction needs to be wealthy and soiled with meals.”

As a result of whitefish use so many meals sources, from small fish to benthic invertebrates and mussels, it follows that they’re consistently shifting and grazing. Ice anglers intent on catching them must observe swimsuit.

“Whitefish are extremely cellular, which is why it’s possible you’ll discover them utilizing a construction in the future after which gone the following,” Eberts says. “They’re on a continuing seek for meals so it’s important to be cellular. Consider your self as a wolf following a caribou herd.”

And since they’re able to utilizing so many various backside substrates, Eberts says anglers could be sensible to pick shows mimicking the prey discovered at these depths. In different phrases, utilizing lures like spoons within the center and higher water column to mimic pelagic forage fish like smelt and shiners, and softbaits on the underside to imitate nymphs, worms, and gobies.

“One other consideration is what the whitefish are doing, when it comes to their biology, at any explicit time of the winter,” Eberts says. “Whitefish sometimes spawn on shallow, near-shore cobble substrates in November, December, and January. Because of this firstly of ice fishing season, you are more likely to discover them hanging across the spawning grounds, usually consuming eggs. As you progress into mid-winter, it is price investigating transition grounds and deeper habitat.”

Ice Fishing WhitefishGet the Drop

To capitalize on their eclectic style in meals, Whyte sometimes gives the fish the selection between a full-fledged fish dinner and a bug lunch, using a dropper-line system developed on Lake Simcoe greater than a century in the past. He prepares it by tying a lure like his favourite 1/2-ounce Sebile Vibrato to the tip of his mainline and attaching a brief 8-pound check fluorocarbon dropper line a few foot above it. He finishes off the rig by tying a pink #6 hook to the tip of the dropper, baiting it with a single Luhr Jensen Jensen egg. He additionally makes use of a double surgeon’s knot to affix the dropper, shunning swivels or different {hardware}.

“I’ve most likely caught extra 7- and 8-pound whitefish on the Vibrato rig than anything,” he says. “However you should let it crash into the underside. Then, rip it up 6 inches and let it dangle completely nonetheless.

“The cloud of mud seems to be like a college of whitefish feeding on the underside. While you dangle it completely nonetheless, they both hit the egg dangling above the cloud or the lure itself. In contrast to most fish, whitefish can look down and see nicely off to the facet at a 40-degree angle.”

Whyte depends on the Vibrato to seek for whitefish and to name them in, however he usually switches to a second setup when he is aware of there is a college under. It is a modified drop-shot rig with a 1/4-ounce firetiger Badd Boyz jig, a legendary Lake Simcoe whitefish lure that may be a nose-heavy specialty jig that appears like a small minnow and includes a middle line tie. Lindy’s Slick Jig is another choice of comparable type. On the pink drop-shot hook above the jig he threads a Jensen Egg or a Berkley comfortable plastic nymph.

“I depend on the Badd Boyz once I cannot get bit on the Vibrato,” he says. “However it’s important to current it extra subtly. As a result of it is nose-heavy, simply faucet the underside with it ever so gently, to mimic a feeding minnow, then slowly carry it up a few inches and let it dangle.

“You possibly can carry as many sort out containers as you want, however I believe you are a lot additional forward studying how one can use one or two whitefish baits nicely. I take advantage of a 32- to 34-inch medium-heavy ice rod spooled with 10-pound braid and a 6- or 8-pound-test fluorocarbon chief. I’ve experimented with lighter leaders however discovered they made no distinction.”

Digicam Shy

What did make a distinction for Whyte was when he shut off his underwater digicam. He loves utilizing the digicam to scope out backside substrates, monitor the goby inhabitants on structural soft-tops, and to look at faculties of feeding whitefish. However, when he has his lure in entrance of the digicam he cannot get bit. It ties in with Eberts’ remark about whitefish being so tuned into their surroundings.

“Whitefish are digicam shy,” Whyte says, who’s the writer of the Time on the Water ( web site, which supplies up-to-date data on a variety of in style ice fisheries. “They both drift off or are available in and look proper into the lens. However I’ve solely caught 4 fish whereas monitoring faculties which have numbered within the tons of. And as quickly as I pull up the digicam I pound them.”

What are you ready for?

It is virtually a assure that in the event you reside in Canada or the northern United States, there’s a booming winter whitefish fishery shut by ready to be found.

“Whitefish are a post-glacial relict, in order that they exist in much more lakes than most anglers suppose,” Eberts says. “And you do not have to journey to the Nice Lakes or another well-known fishery to get into the motion. The Nice Lakes might seem to be the plain place to begin, however these techniques are extremely dynamic, making the whitefish there much less predictable than populations in smaller, extra manageable lakes for fishing.

“There are untapped whitefish lakes with big potential, similar to Final Mountain Lake and Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan and plenty of different related prairie-type techniques,” she says. “These prairie lakes even have increased productiveness than deep, oligotrophic whitefish lakes so the whitefish develop a lot quicker.

“Whitefish are present in a wide range of lake sorts, proving that they’re extremely adaptable. However you should study concerning the whitefish in your system. What are their habitat choices in the course of the winter? What are their limitations? What are their prey decisions? While you mix the dynamic nature of whitefish feeding conduct, motion, and the lake environmeIce Fishing Whitefishnts the place they make a dwelling — you notice you really have a fancy fish in your fingers.”

Are you up for the problem?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *